February 27, 2017
It’s a Big Pond Out There
- as seen by -Kevin Torregrosa
When thinking of alligators, the image most likely conjured up is of a large prehistoric-looking beast. American alligators are, indeed, very large reptiles which are decisively at the top of their food chain.
However, alligators do not start out this way. When they hatch, alligators are only six inches long. At this small size, they are constantly under threat of being eaten by almost everything around them. Raccoons, birds, fish, snakes, other alligators, and even frogs can gobble down an alligator hatchling if they get the chance.
Luckily, these fragile babies have several things to aid them in reaching their place at the top of the food chain. In addition to their natural camouflage provided by their yellowish crossbands, they are also protected by their mother. This may come as a surprise to find out that mother alligators not only guard their nests, they also defend their babies for more than a year after hatching. It would take a pretty brave heron to challenge an adult mother alligator.
It’s easy to forget that even the largest predators most often start out as vulnerable youngsters.
The next time you visit the Bronx Zoo’s World of Reptiles, be sure to stop by the baby alligator exhibit. You will find a whole new perspective on these “fierce” predators.